Motivated by a lack of material.

Archive for the month “May, 2011”

Self Service or No Service

Well what is the difference? We went shopping for a few grocery items, it was about 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday evening. There were two lines open attended by human beings,  one was 15 items or less, and four self-service lanes.

Now people, this is not nuclear physics here, I am a big fan of getting in and out of a place. I utilize  the self-service machines as often as possible. They are generally efficient and lack attitude. However, I do believe the idea behind them is supposed to be speed and efficiency.  What was  the manager of this store thinking when he set-up a schedule that allowed him to close the only other lane in the store capable of handling customers with 16 items or more? I think most of us can hold our own with a couple of items to check out and bag, but when the numbers increase the time does too. Here is the scenario; you have one lane that can take care of any sized order, one lane that takes care of small orders and four machines that will help customers delay other customers and make the shopping experience a dreaded event. That makes sense? Do self service machines give the humans an excuse not to be of service?

Workers complain about cut hours, yet in a situation like this rarely do you see the checker step back, make eye contact, or do anything that resembles customer service. How many times have you encountered an employee, made an inquiry, and actually got what you needed or at the very least you felt like they were truly trying to help you. I found myself feeling the need to explain to an individual who was supposed to be providing me with service.

I do not want to become one of those people with a “perpetual chip-on- my-shoulder. Always aware of the wrongs others are guilty of but not of my own. Perhaps that is why I did bother saying something to the young woman whose line I “invaded”. I felt justified, yet if someone with 15 items or less said something to me, what would my response be? The truth is I wanted to get my order taken care of a fast as possible so I could go about my business. I could have gone to customer service, asked for the manager and lodged my complaint. In turn he ( I know the manager) would have apologized, corrected the situation or both. At any rate it would have taken longer to do that than to just go to the line and get checked out.

Entitlement comes to use in a variety of disguises, but eventually it will reveal itself. Although I felt justified in what I did, I was still in the wrong line. We expect customer service and when we don’t get it we become a bit out of line. I had three choices and I did none of them. I have to tell you if someone would have come up behind me and said,” What’s going on here; this is the 15 item or less line, can’t you read?” I would have been embarrassed and probably angry. Who knows what that would have led to.

The right thing to do would not have solved my problem immediately, but it may have had a better long term effect. I suppose if I walk into that store again and the same conditions exist, I will have to accept some responsibility for things being that way. Furthermore, what will I do this time?


All Things Good

This is about an aspect of the individual I am, and the influences that I believe can be attributed to why I am the way I am. In short I credit the bulk of the positive to others and I assume the responsibility for the negative. However, through it all it is just me. Basically, a mild character analysis.

A lifetime ago I read Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds. There was a line in the novel where Cardinal Ralph de Bricassart told,  unbeknownst to him, his illegitimate son Dane not to follow in his footsteps because he had broken every sacred vow to God and the Catholic Church. Well I am not as bad as Cardinal deBricassart, but I have sinned in my life. It is not really important to what extent, what sins I have committed or even how many times. I am simply owning up to being human.

As I recall what I believe is my first conscious memory of the first time I was reprimanded for doing something wrong, that was major. We must eliminate the spankings for not listening or making too much noise, they count there are just too many.

Beyond pain and punishment what will really keep you from doing what you really want to do? As small children we are at the mercy of our parents, when you become older and then an adult there are outsiders who do not care about you that one must deal with, the very thing your parents warned you about. There was the drawing power of something forbidden and the strength of ones need to do what they want.

I have watched myself and others caught, having to own up to these wrongs. I will not say there are no regrets, but I do believe there is quite a ratio of difference between being truly sorry and sorry that one was caught.  Honestly, I do not really like to think about that difference. There it is my “Ugly Truth”.

As we grow older we like to/tend to ignore we used to act on our devil-may-care whims. Sometimes we forget, oftentimes we pretend to. That is okay as long as you keep it to yourself and do not try to judge others for what they are currently doing incorrectly. I suggest helping instead; that means abandoning the self-righteous attitude, it doesn’t work for it is simply not believable.

I wish I could dance like no one was watching, but there are the inhibitions that keep me at bay. I wonder why there wasn’t something as strong that would have kept me from doing the questionable things? Although a simple matter of faith should have been my deterrent.

I search to end with something profound, I turn to my Bible and I suggest you do the same.

Don’t Talk About My Father

A close to my heart subject; and one I want to beyond all, to do justice to it. However, this is only a blog and all I can offer is my best effort. This is dedicated to all the fathers, dads and daddies. I also have to give a  resounding shout to the single moms who had to be both, mom and dad.

The title is an excerpt from a Marvin Gaye” song from the Whats Going On album . My father, my dear “play” father , and two wonderful ladies who served as mother and father instantly come to mind when I  hear this song. The images of four very special people come to me and images of them are fresh in my mind and deep in my heart. I feel so very blessed by God for having each of them in my life.

Growing up in a time when divorce was on the rise;I had my dad  Albert J. Cates Sr., with me through the formative years, my early adulthood, and my children were able to see and experience their grandfather. I am a better person because he was in my life, but I can only hope I am a slight reflection of the goodness that existed within him. Upon his passing there stood another man, not to replace but to help fill a void. Without missing a beat he was there; Theodore’s entrance into my life was virtually unremarkable, because he had been around since I was a small child. He taught me what it was to be truly kind to people and his love was felt by all who were fortunate enough to meet him. He did all of this without saying a word, it was demonstrated through his deeds. And what of the ladies?  First there was Shirley;  she impacted my life tremendously, though she departed this life before either of the men, I knew her as a strong wonderful influence. Last but not least would be my dear bubbly-yet-no-nonsense Elaine . Ms. Elaine was/is a  friend you could confide in, but without missing a beat she would put you in your place. Both of the ladies shared a common characteristic, and that was a presence that made you know given a choice you might want to challenge a man instead.  I could speak volumes on each of these people and still be at a loss for words.

I have to stop and think of how marvelous it is to have your father in your life, because I always had mine. I know, I took this particular aspect for granted. This also has to bring to light how unbelievably resilient and amazing a single woman is that takes on the role of both parents.

Fatherhood is no easy undertaking. The strong stoic individual has to go against his very nature to be soft and approachable. He must always maintain our view of what manhood is. Down to the most miniscule part of him such as his voice he must imply and command respect,  there are numerous times it must be done without saying a word. Having him in your life affords you the confidence of, “no matter what is going on, it will be alright because he is there and he will make it so”. I  never gave this a conscious thought, because everyday of my entire life up until a  little over a year ago I had that. I cannot fathom what a small helpless child feels without a someone like that in their life. I know how vulnerable I feel as an adult without this amazing being.

For the women who must assume this role she has the dual challenge of being the nurturer and disciplinarian. Her soft sweet voice has to take on the unnatural power of that missing piece. What is inside of her aching for the relief of his very presence can never be visible. Her success is seen through her children, but she pays a high price.

We have an obligation to our children, they all require and deserve to have the very basic, yet amazing love of a “father”. If you happen to fit into this particular role realize and remember how very special you are. If you do not, take care and consideration before you take it on. We have all been touched by an individual who does, one way or the other.

If you don’t believe anything else in this life, believe the Lord knows exactly what you need, when you need it, and he provides it. As Father’s Day approaches, approximately one month away, I am reminded of these four individuals.  I cannot help feeling so very fortunate. Each of them holds a very special place in my heart. I ask myself what made me so special to have been blessed with all of their presence. I thank my Heavenly Father for these gifts he bestowed upon me.


The resounding echo of silence invades my head now. After a marathon of words I am screeching to a silent stop. I need a bit of a break, the writing takes something out of me, because I feel what I am saying. I must interpret these as  pregnant pauses in order to recover, regroup, and refresh.

Here you are alone. More of your life is behind you than ahead, at least as far as new experiences are concerned. What road do you take? Do you make due and stay single or do you venture out? This one required me to actually do some research. I was/am unqualified and unequipped to address this subject on certain levels, in spite of my having quite strong opinions. My results will not be filled with stats and graphs, but information obtained from real and personal contacts.

The research began and it began with individuals very close to me. I want to see these folks happy, I believe they all deserve happiness and not the opinion of what others think happiness is.

The ladies tended to be successful in their business or chosen career. Therefore, they possess the economic spoils of doing well, nice homes,  furnishings, cars, etc. “Can you say intimidating boys and girls?” To that I ask why?  At this particular time in our lives haven’t we learned about the temporary state of “things”? They express the same high standard involving expectations in relationships. Although they are dealing with  something that is a bit more difficult to gauge.

The gentlemen in the same status had a devil-may-care attitude.They were open when it came to relationships, until one day they really examined the age factor. Then suddenly they needed the spouse, children, and in spite of the newness they(the family) needed to catch up and be age appropriate with them. They had  generally decided that the domestic aspect of life was not for them; and then with the wave of a hand changed their minds, but it took a few decades.

I submit that these individuals have spent a great deal of time without the challenges of relationships on a very specific level and no matter how appealing this may appear, they would/will be in for a rude awakening. What I am presenting is not mind-boggling or earthshaking. They are all very desirable, charming, and intelligent. They all simply want what they want, and that attitude alone is not cohesive with the type of relationship that they are seeking. Settling has been something they have managed to avoid, but in this venture if some compromising is not done failure is eminent. I smile as I think of trying to match them up with one another, but the idea of this gives me images of two cats fighting in a bag. My suggestion would be to slow it down and I am sure that will be received with contempt. Ironic, is the word I apply to it all.

What is missing and can it be filled with something else? Have we become so one dimensional that we can only operate if we have all the same “things” that everyone else we know has. I think it is important to note that none of us is truly alone with no one that cares.

Having a warm body next to you, can sometimes translates into desperation and settling. However, standing by your convictions sets you up for load of disappointments and a scant selection of what would be considered suitable. As our age advances, our considerations become less distinctive. Voids need to be filled, society tells us this is so and we buy into this thought-pattern.

I am a hopeless romantic. Although, life experiences have encouraged me to abandon the Disney/Fairytale ideals, I am still a seven year old at heart. If I am completely honest, I wish I could reach inside my soul and pluck that romanticism out of me.  However,the romanticism is one of those things that you’d have to characterize as; when it feels good it is so good, but when it is bad it is HELL! Hey call me a sadist, I’m gonna hang onto it.

Giving Em The Business

Expectations of professionalism and quality are my first thoughts. Dropped like a hot potato; one of my oldest reliable clients told me that my services were going to be cancelled. She said immediately,” It was nothing we did, that they(she and her husband) were trying to cut expenses.”‘ She went on to say that she/they would like to periodically use us and how would she go about doing this. I explained the procedure, but I was still in the beginning of the conversation. No matter what she said my mind asked over and over “What just happened here?”, because I did not see this coming. I did not have an opportunity to suggest an alternative plan, because it seemed to me her mind was made up. I did not want to be invasive, but I would be lying if I said I took her entirely at “face value”.

Losing this client brought to light that I had violated something I vowed I would not do in my business practices, I got personally involved.  I felt like I lost a friend along with that revenue. I was damaged, hurt, and insulted. Observing what I believed to be a very southern practice; over and over I witnessed individuals insinuating themselves into the lives of people who they wanted to do work,  people they wanted to work for, and/or people they wanted provide services to or obtain services from. It seemed to me that in their minds, if you were friends “we” could conduct business and if “I” need to do something outside the realm of business (such as hold a check for payment repeatedly) it was somehow more acceptable. No matter this was a ploy or disingenuous.

I never really thought much of the two week notice practice. I felt like an employer asks for what they are unwilling to provide circumstances reversed. After all they do not tell you they are letting you go in two weeks when they terminate you. I also had seen the way employees were treated when they gave that required expected notification. Now I am forced to rethink that position. I  suppose it may have been better if my former client gave me an advanced notification such as; after the next visit we are cancelling in opposed to I am cancelling service. Realistically, speaking she treated me like I was just someone who worked for her. News Flash, that is exactly who I am!

Questions arose; did I do or not do something right, are they really having financial issues. Honestly, the only real concern I should have had was, if our work performance and work ethic were stable and intact . If I could give an affirmative response to those questions, I would have done what is required and expected of me as a business owner and service  provider. Truth is clients/customers/business contacts enter and depart from you and your business. They are as any other individual because at the root they are just people: here for a reason or for a season.

However, it is just business, and I must bounce back and recover. For future references though, I will keep the thought of NOT getting personally involved with my customers/clients in the forefront. I must continue to try to do what I would tell you I currently do; Treat people/clients/customers the way I want to be treated.

Returns And Replays

The hauntings of our past sometimes call out to us. On a quite afternoon when you don’t have anything in particular to do, will you find yourself trying to make busy in order to avoid the reality of a time gone by slipping or even forcing its way into your psyche.

All I wanted to do was take a quiet little nap, a nocturnal rest had evaded me the previous Friday. I put on some soft jazz from the late seventies and then I was transported back.  My dog wasn’t barking, the cats weren’t meowing, because they were not there in a decade of my youth. In present day I watched the leaves on trees in my backyard rustle in the wind, but in my mind I felt the ocean breeze of Redondo Beach on my face. How I wanted to be able to return to that time and space. Only for a little while, though.

In the midst of this all, I got an e-mail. Remember the fledgling stages of this necessity of today? My former employer has been made quite obsolete because of it. Without being personal I have to say, the cosmos will interrupt your life on occasions and take you somewhere before you realize you should be not be there.

Where are we returning to or are we simply trying to escape? The current headlines are of chaos and gossip. What are we coming to? It was so different way back when. It wasn’t really that different, our priorities were different and information wasn’t as readily available. It seemed that we had stronger, better values. Therefore, we can now claim it was better then. With the soundtracks of that time, the era seems a lot better. Today we have to live life without the benefit of those sounds, sounds that memory adds and makes it all seem surreal. In the now we have to operate without commercial interruptions, and we come face to face with the fact we need a break from real from time to time.

Looking back allows us to  reminisce and reflect, but if we continue in that mode we could easily run into something we might have avoided had we been looking ahead. Spend a  little time with those special thoughts of things gone by and then give equal time to making plans for times to come.

It’s Just The Principle

Wow, what does that statement really mean to you? I want this one to make you laugh a little and NOT take yourself so seriously. Come with me for a visit to an internet social community, specifically, my Facebook account.

If you have an account with Facebook or a similar website you can probably relate. Let me first say, I enjoy it. When I first signed on almost two years ago, it was simply something to do and I can say it is still just that today. It has evolved though.

My early dealings, was at obsession level. I had a complete ball on this site. I ran into a number of people from my past, I reconnected with family. The great thing was the ability to control connections. If you saw someone you knew and wanted to be in touch with you had the option of requesting friendship, just like if you found someone you knew and did not necessarily want to be in contact with you could simply move on. People from “outer-cyberspace” were requesting friendships, I was selective in accepting these unknowns. I applied what I felt were the proper filters  and went from there. I avoided what I deemed to be “collectors” and I have kept my “friend” list to a small semi-intimate group of people that I regularly interact with, at the very least I/we say Hi, Happy Birthday, etc. to one another.

I laugh as I recall my friends speak about their first connections; after all this is a vehicle of our children, we just hopped in and rode anyway. I have become reacquainted with people who were so young the last time I saw them, my memory of them could more closely linked to the offspring of my own children. There have been the numerous privacy irregularities we have navigated through and pointless entertaining games. People have deactivated their accounts for one reason or the other, sometimes permanently other times to clear their heads and manage their free time better. Overall, Facebook has been a positive experience.

Now no piece would be complete without a visit to the dark side and trust me this is minuscule, but today I lost a” friend” on Facebook. I cannot tell you why, I don’t know what I did or even if I did anything. I have to say this “friend” was initially treated the same as all of my other Facebook “friends”. However, through deed and lack of contact this person had been placed in a status where there was very limited contact available. No pictures were accessible, there was no ability to comment on my posts or even to see my posts, my profile was visible as I make it for the unknowns in the Facebook world and I did not allow the posts of this same individual to be seen on my wall.  Today I discovered that I not only had been deleted as this person’s friend but had been blocked! My first thought was , “The nerve…” and there were other superlatives involved.

As ridiculous as this may seem, even to me, it was simply the principle of it. For all intent and purpose I had deleted this individual, yet when an overt act denied me the ability to do the very same thing I felt insulted and disrespected. I searched for an explanation and there is an easy one; for whatever my former “friends” true motive(s), a position was taken and a stand was made. I cannot say a lot positive about this person’s character accept the obvious, my former “friend” was not indecisive and did exactly what I should have done over a year and a half ago with absolution.  Instead I hesitated.

For future references don’t wait for things to happen because they will. If you feel strongly enough about something that you make semi-aggressive moves, be what you are dancing around. If it is just the principle stand by that principle.

What You’re Sayin With Your Drivin

Living in the Metro Atlanta area when I drive my mind is strictly on driving. Where I am going, what time I need to be there, and most importantly, what the other drivers around me are doing. When we first moved to Atlanta over 17 years ago I was amazed at how TERRIBLY people drove, and I am sad to say things have only gotten worse.

Behind the wheel of a car, it seems people are busy doing everything but the task at hand. Young people playing their music far too loud, older people driving in a semi-conscious state.. then out of the blue we return to the place we should be in behind the wheel of a car. Our consciousness hasn’t had time to catch up with our physical being. As we travel along we encounter several road hazards; none of them identified, none of them give you forewarning, but out there with you just the same. How do you hope to get where you are going much less survive, when you have a driver so close on your bumper, that you can have a conversation with them, or the one who speeds past you only to pull right in front of you when the lane they are in is clear. How about that sensitive driver who is so busy being nice that they obstruct traffic. I could go on and on however, I must pay homage to the ones who are the most dangerous of all and the ones who inspired me to once again talk to and about. They are the multi-taskers.

Let me say this there are somethings that require our undivided attention; driving down the highway or navigating the busy city streets just happen to “fit that bill”.

The child safety industry has recognized this, thus the rear facing car seats that require you to stop, pull over, etc. if you must attend to your child while they are restrained in the unit. The cell phone industry with the invention of the bluetooth said to us, you cannot hold the phone, talk, and drive.They could have gone just a little farther with this concept and said it is difficult to truly give driving your undivided attention if you are talking PERIOD.

I know this tugs at a multitude of you but let’s be real/ examine yourselves; do you use your hands when you talk, are gestures a part of your communication? If you answered “yes” then you have to accept the following; no matter how long you have driven, no matter how good you think you are at driving and doing other things, YOU ARE AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN AND YOUR SCHEDULE IS TIGHT!

The article I wrote several years ago for the Atlanta Journal Constitution was from a first person driver standpoint, now I am a passenger more often than not. I am a daily critic of someone else’s driving and interacting behind the wheel. I witness a very skilled arrogant aggressive driver who has in turn made me a more aware motorist. I am not viewed as a very good driver by this same individual; I can point out things like I was professionally trained and required to take annual refresher courses in defensive driving, but that still would not change the way my husband views my driving.

Therefore, as always these pieces are subjective. I hope they entertain the reader and make you think. As an observer I see that we are using numerous excuses for a series of bad practices. Today’s drivers say and demonstrate the following:  My overly sensitive motorist helping another get into traffic is saying, ” I am so afraid to drive, if I let enough folks go by maybe I’ll get the road to myself”. My arrogant-aggressive driver says, ” Get out of my way I have some place to go/something to do even if you don’t!” My multi-tasker ” There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do what I need to do, so I will have to catch up on the road.” My dancing partying teen is saying ,” OOOH LOOK AT ME!! NO HANDS!”

What are you saying and what are you doing when you are behind the wheel?

Warm Cookies and Milk

I grew up with fine cooks in my life; my maternal grandmother was a wonderful cook, my eldest aunt on my father’s side was the ultimate cook, and then there is my Mom. It is unfortunate that cooking now isn’t as important as it was when we were growing up. Busy schedules and the availability of fast food has turned it into a somewhat lost art. Come back with me into the kitchen; climb up onto the stool and see that beloved individual in your life create and/or teach you one of the fine foods that will for years to come, bring back memories that can and will be ignited by a fleeting thought.

Sunlight filtered into my bedroom and the aroma crept up. At first I simply rolled over, then my eyes opened and I sat straight up. In a semi-trance I made my way to the kitchen. Ahhh fresh rolls. My maternal grandmother made the best little bite sized rolls you could imagine. I remember helping her, but I never quite got the hang of it. Instead I am happy to be the cake baker of the family.

As amazing as it is, we don’t really think about how smells, fragrances, aromas act as a time machine for us. I realize it only because I am so far away from the familiar terrain I grew up in and around.  I didn’t know where this was going when my friend told me a story and sparked the writing bug. The title came fast and the rest just lingered on with nothing really inspired to talk about.  It was, after all, her memory and she relayed the story so well. I was trying to gather something from a similar experience, so that I could do her memory justice . Perhaps that was my mistake I was trying too hard.  I could not do her story justice because it was her story, and even though she gave it to me as a starting point it still belonged to her. I cannot touch the feeling she relayed to me from her mind’s eye. I just know I was right there in the room with my friend and her mother tasting those cookies.

Then I saw a photograph of another friend from childhood with her beautiful little granddaughters on the playground. The baby was bundled up, her big sister looking on showing off baby sister, and my friend glowing with pride. I could smell the cool, dew drenched Southern California mornings. I felt the chill in the air and I went back to grandma’s kitchen.  I saw her cutting out the little delicacies and I tasted the buttery delight of them. This segued to my first mornings with my new baby sons, decades flew past like the pages of a book in a mild breeze. Then I knew my warm cookies and milk memory was simply my family, my friends, and their faces. Ignited by one sense, but crescendoed by another.


Today I had to do something I did not want to do but I had to. Through the years we all have had this type of experience(doing something you didn’t want to), and more than likely this has happened more than once.

My boy, as I liked to think of him, was born January 1, 1999. He came as  a surprise to me 3 years later, because I  never thought I would own another cat after my loss 12 years earlier. There he was sitting the cage at Petsmart waiting to be adopted. He had beautiful blue eyes and a gray fluffy coat. He was by breed a “Ragdoll”.  I re-named him , but as all things that concerned him, he never warmed up to his name or me for that matter. I can only imagine what his early life was. I know it wasn’t good, but I know we tried to give him a good home and we tried to do this for 9 years.

Today I let him go. I am sad for the loss of life, but I am not sad for him. I think he is worth mentioning because,  I believe there are situations where we put all of our energy in to and get no return. I was very convinced and comfortable with my decision. As a pet lover, I have had to make the unselfish  choice to let go before and it hurt. This was so different and I learned  about being more responsible when it comes to a life. I think I should have left Storm alone. I tried to fill a void with another individual and it did not work. I can tell myself that I gave him something better than he had, but if he didn’t want it was it really better?

Anyone other than a pet lover may find this odd. I hope the pet lovers understand and take a bit of heed, because we are generally good-hearted folks. This is just a demonstration of how we can lose track of what is really important. I now believe I would have better served Storm by giving a cash contribution to his foster parent and moving on.  I changed his environment, I changed his name, but I didn’t change him.  I did this convinced this would make him happy and subsequently me happy.

Not all of our projects or endeavors will be a success, and today I have to live with that reality.  I did not give all of this thought the day I adopted him and I wish I would have. Today I have to live with a farewell and on that note I haftasaysomthin; his name was Toby before he knew me. Peace be with you Toby.

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